The Ruthless Terrorists Targeting the Winter Olympics
Policy + Politics

The Ruthless Terrorists Targeting the Winter Olympics

Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

The Chechen separatists believed to be behind two terrorist attacks in Russia over the last two days have a long, violent history, targeting not just adults but children as well.

Officials have yet to confirm whether Chechens were actually responsible for the suicide attacks on a bus and railway station in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, a major rail hub in southern Russia. As of now, no one has claimed responsibility. However, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the country's federal investigation service, hinted that Chechen separatists were behind it.

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“This strike, which was cynically planned for the period of preparations for New Year's celebrations, is one more attempt by terrorists to open a domestic front, sow panic and chaos, and trigger religious strife and conflicts in Russian society,” Markin said in a statement. “We will not back down and will continue our tough and consistent offensive,”  adding that such an enemy “can only be stopped by joint efforts” involving the international community.

If Chechens are responsible, it would be the latest in a long string of attacks dating back to the 1990s. By Chechen standards, these attacks were minor; only 32 people were killed. Some 130 people were killed when Chechens seized a theater in 2002, and 380 were killed during the Beslan school siege in 2004, including 180 children.

Since then, Chechens have conducted smaller scale attacks that received little international attention. A 2011 attack at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow killed 36 people. In 2010, a bomb in Moscow’s subway killed 40, and in 2009, 28 people were killed when a bomb exploded on a high-speed train. The Chechen group Caucasus Emirate, a group that the State Department has dubbed a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for all of these attacks.

As the world’s eye turns to Sochi, the site of the winter Olympics, there are growing concerns that athletes could be targeted. This past summer, Doku Umarov, the leader of the Chechen group Caucasus Emirate, released a video calling for “maximum force” to be used to disrupt the games.

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Russia’s President Vladmir Putin wants these games to showcase Russian power, and he’s already called for increased security in the wake of the attacks. If the Caucasus Emirate manages to successfully attack Sochi, it could damage Putin’s legacy by exposing his inability to stop terrorist attacks in his own country.

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